The VCU rams hit the court in their first game of this year's March Madness tournament. The momentum is building around the River City as fans wait for tip-off. The game is also a huge score for restaurants and bars around the metro. Ram fans are wearing T-shirts, waving flags and ordering up big tabs.
One group of guys at the Home Team Grill took off work to make sure they could watch all of the games on Thursday's schedule.
"Don't let my boss see this," joked Stan Eart, wearing a VCU T-shirt, along with the rest of his buddies at the table.
"We have a lot of extra servers on. We have extra hosts on, to handle the flow of people coming in and out," said Home Team Grill hostess Jeniffer Wirsch.
"I don't know about anybody else, but I'm excited," said LaTasha Harvey, a junior at VCU.
Watch parties are everywhere. Baja Bean expects to be standing room only, as Ram-nation makes sure the mayhem moves from the metro to Michigan.
VCU's official watch party is at Champps at the Stony Point Fashion Park Mall. Free VCU T-shirts, hats and basketball game tickets will be up for grabs. Fans should get there early, since Champps manager Thomas Lindenzweig says more than 300 people are expected to pack into the bar.
"We hit the limit. The fire marshal usually shows up and double checks us, and we rock it out. We have a blast," said Lindenzweig. "We keep extra staff, extra bartenders, extra cooks. We'll have a full management staff tonight. We're ready for it. We plan on doing double (the business of) what we usually do."
Lindenzweig keeps a cell phone video of the crowd's reaction at Champps two years ago, after the Rams made it to the Final Four.
"They went nuts," smiled Lindenzweig.
The VCU Rams play against the Akron Zips at 9:45 p.m..
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